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Protests Escalate Over Eureka Nursing Home Closures

On October 7, 2016, Pacific Rehabilitation & Wellness Center issued a written notice to its residents that it is planning to close in 60 days. Pacific is the first of three Eureka nursing homes that Brius Healthcare is planning to close.

The closure plans have been almost universally condemned by residents, family members, current and former legislators, ombudsmen, advocates, labor officials and others because it is expected that most of the current residents will be moved great distances from Eureka and isolated from their families, friends, caregivers and community. The planned closures of the three nursing homes would reduce the nursing home bed supply in Eureka by nearly 60 percent. However, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has approved the closure plans after earlier rejecting them. See CANHR articles on September 30, 2016 and September 15, 2016 for information on CDPH’s actions.

Intensifying investigations by the local media have raised serious questions about whether Brius Healthcare is using the residents as bargaining chips in efforts to gain higher Medi-Cal rates from Partnership Health Plan, the local Medi-Cal managed care plan. An October 13, 2016 article by the North Coast Journal, The Case of the Missing $5 Million, pokes big holes in the company’s claims that it is losing money and reports that using the fate of its patients to levy for a higher reimbursement rate is a familiar tactic for Brius. Commenting on the methods being used, Senator Mike McGuire stated, “it feels like we’re being extorted.” The same article raises serious concerns about neglect and mistreatment of residents at these facilities.

In an opinion article published by the North Coast Journal on October 13, 2016, former state legislators Patty Berg and Wesley Chesbro described the closure plans as “a dire situation” and placed blame on Shlomo Rechnitz, the owner of Brius Healthcare. The authors state that Mr. Rechnitz “cries of his loss of Medi-Cal income during this last year” while reportedly taking in $3 billion in income per year.

On October 13, 2016, local citizens, including family members, held a protest outside of Pacific Rehabilitation & Wellness Center to speak out against the closure plans and rally public support for the residents.

Amidst all of the concerns about the harm the closures could cause to the residents and the community, there are serious questions about whether Rockport Healthcare Services – the company that sought permission from CDPH to close the nursing homes – has ever been authorized by CDPH to manage the facilities. CDPH informed CANHR that Rockport Healthcare Services has submitted an application to be an approved management company and that the application is still under review. CANHR’s understanding of the law is that an entity must have CDPH’s approval before it can begin managing a nursing home in California.

Latest Media Reports

The Case of The Missing $5 Million, North Coast Journal, October 13, 2016

A Dire Situation, Patty Berg and Wesley Chesbro, North Coast Journal, October 13, 2016

‘People over profits:’ Families of nursing home patients call on Brius to stop closures, Eureka Times-Standard, October 13, 2016

‘Shame on Shlomo’: Citizens Protest the Pending Closure of Local Nursing Homes, Lost Coast Outpost, October 13, 2016

Nursing home patients handle closures, KRCR News Channel 7, October 10, 2016

An intolerable loss of beds cannot be allowed, Eric Duff, Eureka Times Standard, October 6, 2016